Save. Spend. Splurge.

I work in STEM as a woman & I can relate.

I read Leigh’s post on being a STEM departing statistic, and as a woman who is in STEM, I can see what she is saying.

(STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering Math)

My partner is also in STEM and this is the difference:

My partner wins more contracts than I do because he’s a man.

May partner gets grilled LESS during interviews (and gets more interviews) because he is a man.

My partner gets taken at his word seriously and without any question, because he is a man.

My partner can speak confidently and assertively during any meeting and not be called a ‘bossy b*tch’ behind his back.

……you get the drift.

All that said, I am a good 10+ years younger than he is, and I cannot deny that I have also benefitted from very few perks of being a young woman in STEM — let’s just say that many guys are a lot more likely to want to book meetings with you, and treat you nicely when you’re a young woman.

They feel less inclined to rake you over the coals and dominate the conversation to take over and crush you underneath their leather loafers in an attempt to be The Boss.

The main hurdles I do face as a young woman in STEM are mostly the same:

1. I have to work three times as hard to prove myself

I have to work thrice as hard to prove my worth.

I have to speak more assertively, I have to modulate my tone, do all of these things to SHOW that I am great and smart, and do it consistently over a long period of time.

A guy in my area? He can show up and do NONE OF THESE THINGS I work on on a daily basis, and still be taken seriously in meetings.

2. No one takes me seriously because I am a young, woman in STEM.

It doesn’t help that I am not ugly. I have the same chip on every woman’s shoulder to NOT call attention to our looks as something to be proud of, but … yes, I am well aware that I am not ugly.

I have been told both by men and women this, so I can safely assume this is true and objective, not some sort of delusions of beauty on my part.

Anyway, looking the way I do (and it doesn’t help that I dress the way I want in dresses and skirts too), it is easy to see how people just assume in meetings that I am there to take notes.

I am never seen as the lead in meetings, and it isn’t until people have worked with me for a while or have seen me operate, that they realize that I’m the one in charge.

It takes a while to get there, and truth be told, some men do not work well with me because they cannot accept that I am giving them directions, but that’s life.

3. Men in particular feel the need to show dominance

1 month into my contract and I have guys sauntering over to my cubicle trying to tell me that they know my job better than I do.

This is not even a joke, though I wish it were.

I had a colleague come over, and talk himself into a puff for 15 minutes on the intricacies of my specialty, telling ME what HE thinks I should do, and how my job works.

I let him ramble on and then looked up and said:

I know. I have been doing this for over 10 years now. But good to know that you have an idea of what it means.

We call this ‘mansplaining‘, a wonderful, accurate new word that has this definition:

It is subtle, and it happens often. I usually let them ramble on and on and then when they’re done, I correct them if I have to (if we’re in a design meeting), otherwise, I just let them wander off with a puffed up chest.

But for me?

I love what I do and I am good at it

If I have to wade through a few murky pools and build a reputation over time in a city that I am living in to be the expert to call, then so be it.

The dream comes with the hustle, and this is my hustle — overcoming systemic discrimination and biases in the workplace for young women in STEM careers, by being the opposite of what they expect me to be.

I will also not let sleeping dogs lie when I hear comments like:

“Women are not as good as men in technical fields.”

… you can be sure, I’ll turn around, give them the eye and ask them what they meant by that, and watch them flounder and trip themselves into a pit so deep that they can’t even grovel to get out of.

I also make good money doing it

The only thing I cannot commiserate on is that I make as good as a salary as my partner in what I do.

Okay, so we’re maybe $10,000 – $20,000 a year apart from each other, but he also has 10 years of experience extra on me, and he has all of that white male privilege working for him.

Me, I am working up towards making sure I CONSISTENTLY get the same rate as he does, but I won’t work for anything less than a certain amount, which is just a general rule I keep.

Many women and men consistently take contracts in my field for a good 30% lower than what I charge, and I just won’t do it.

I’d rather chill out on the bench and work to make more money so I can pay for those chilled out hours rather than work a full year and spend every penny.

This is why budgeting my daily expenses and money has become quite important in my life even if it doesn’t seem like it with all my spending sprees. I am still in control, and I do have a general goal, I am just not hyper-focused on reaching $1,000,000 before I am a certain age, or retiring early because I LOVE what I do.

All that, is just to say that I commiserate with Leigh.

I know how she feels, and frankly if she doesn’t love what she does, she should MOST DEFINITELY NOT DO IT ANY MORE especially if she has the means to do so.


  • ArianaAuburn

    May partner gets grilled LESS during interviews (and gets more interviews) because he is a man.

    This happens to me with both male and female recruiters. I’d rather have all four of my wisdom teeth removed again than to sit for a job interview. I have also dealt with professors who have told me that I didn’t belong in the CS department. Well, I am proving them wrong (still at the CS department) and still toughening my skin from the BS.

    The struggle is real, but at least the computer will be there, not saying anything nasty to you!

  • Linda

    Great post!
    I am also a fellow woman in STEM and the struggle is real I tell you!

    I’m fairly new at my job and feel like if I don’t eat with them everyday, I’m left out knowing the ins and out. I did it initially but now, I go out!

    I’m sure I can balance it out, but I don’t want to do that either. It’s summer and I need my walks during lunch break to regroup and get fresh air.

    I’m just going to leave it as doing consistently good work and hope that’s enough until the next gig.

  • Domonique @ She's The IT Guy

    I definitely agree with this post! I’m also a woman in STEM. Technical support and I started freelancing at 15, got my business tax ID at 25 [so I would look legit], and I still get asked in not so many words “Do you know what you’re doing?”…It sucks, but I love my field and I’m great at what I do. Let’s keep kicking butt and let our work ethic speak for itself?

  • raluca

    Heh, I got “women can’t do X” from my professors! By the time I got to a job, my skin was properly hardened and I stopped giving a damn about what people say about me and my qualification. I don’t modulate my voice, I don’t care if they think I’m a bitch or not and I don’t have time to correct their assumptions about me. I just do the work that’s in front of me. I was the sole woman in the office in quite a lot of situations and to be fair, my field is one where being good at what you do is quickly recognized and a good employee is worth their weight in gold to most managers.

    • Leigh

      It definitely seems like to stay in this field, you need to be hardened and not easily sensitive to all of the small problems you will regularly encounter. I’m glad that’s working well for you!

      • raluca

        And I am really sorry for your bad experiences in the industry.
        I hate it when the assholes drive out women from what it could be a good and lucrative career for them.
        The only thing I can offer is this: “Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum”.

  • Ms ZiYou

    As a fellow woman in STEM I can so relate. The double standards are immense and males rarely see them and as women are so few, they don’t see the double standards in action.

    I never got paid my worth until I went contracting – and it’s still my advice for females – once you have the knowledge and skills you can make much more freelance.

  • SP

    For me, it is the more subtle “was that because I’m a woman, or not?” about so many little things along the way. The way some men argue and interact is also annoying to deal with. And just the culture sometimes is annoying. Not always, not often in my current job. But it is that, more than any obvious thing, that grates.

  • Leigh

    Thanks friend! This was a great post. I definitely made some poor career decisions in the last few years of my twenties which didn’t help the compensation differences. I have a lot of feelings about considering leaving. Mostly, I feel like if I don’t find another tech job by January, I worry that I will have irreparably altered my career. Now, I mostly struggle with the idea of doing something else after spending my whole life wanting to be a software engineer and also if my husband and I were to split at some point, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford the same life anymore since our city has gotten so expensive. That’s why I keep trying to convince myself to take one more job for 2-3 years. I just don’t know that it’s worth it though.

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